HomeNewsNOLA Plan Promotes Increased Student Transportation Safety

NOLA Plan Promotes Increased Student Transportation Safety

New Orleans City Council members today called for several improvements to school transportation safety including the implementation of a Safe Routes to School program and uniform safety standards for school bus stops.

The plan has two main objectives: Primarily to improve student safety on their way to and from school and secondarily to improve the efficiency and sustainability of efforts to achieve that safety. Anna Nguyen, communications director for plan author Councilmember LaToya Cantrell, told STN that student transportation costs have skyrocketed, especially following Hurricane Katrina.

Nguyen added that Thursday’s recommendations call for a $500,000 Safe Routes to School grant to target community education and outreach for implementing safe biking and walking routes. It also seeks to re-implement a school crossing guard program that ceased a decade ago post-Katrina and improved school zone signage. The plan also target increased enforcement of motorists who speed or use cell phones while driving in school zones or illegally pass school buses at stops.

The plan also seeks to enhance the use of public transit for high school students and better report data on ridership as well as to provide parents more choices as to where their children can attend school, either closer to home utilizing the safe route enhancements or requiring better transportation alternatives to get across town.

Schools would also be prohibited from creating bus stops in blighted areas where crime can be high, she added, and approved stops would hinge upon not requiring students to cross multiple lanes of traffic to reach their destination, either on the way to school or to home.

“School transportation safety should not depend on your zip code,” said Cantrell, who serves as the chair of the Community Development Committee. “It should be a guaranteed right for every parent and child, and it is up to us to unite as a city and fix this faulty system.”

The School Transportation Safety Working Group formed after the February 2014 hit-and-run death of 6-year-old Shaud Wilson, who was crossing the street to his school bus stop at the time. Arthur Toledano, 23, was later arrested, charged and convicted. This week he was sentenced to 12 years without parole.

Cantrell, who represents District B, is a close Wilson family friend and also knows Toledano and his family. She convened the working group consisting of concerned citizens, public officials and education and school transportation professionals citywide to address challenges and goals for improving transportation infrastructure and to avoid future tragedies.

Cantrell was joined on the steps of City Hall by fellow Councilmember Jared Brosset, who represents District B where Shaud Wilson lived, and representatives from the New Orleans Police Department, the Department of Public Works and the Department of Health to formally announce the plan.

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